The Holocaust and the Third Reich, 1933-45, undoubtedly highlighted the depths of evil possible in humanity. The Nazi regime was comprised of some of the malevolent characters that the world had ever seen in such a concentrated space of time. Not only did the Nazis front the biggest in scale and most costly war that the mankind had known, they also were perpetrators in one of the world’s biggest and most devastating acts of genocide, what is known to us as the Holocaust meaning ‘burnt offering’.
We are going to look at some of the evilest and infamous members of the Nazi Party so that their crimes may not be forgotten over time.
The most infamous of them all is Adolf Hitler, the figurehead and leader of the Nazi Party. Hitler went from being a lance corporal in the German Army, serving in World War I, to being the chancellor of Germany only in a matter of 15 years.
Hitler initiated right-wing, fascist policies, which were the catalyst for World War II. He is said to be responsible for the deaths of 11 million people, which includes the mass murder of an estimated 6 million Jews.
It is understood that Hitler himself was not active in the ongoings of the Holocaust, but certainly knew about what was happening and encouraged it. If nothing else, Hitler created a heavily anti-Semitic culture which bred hatred and the dehumanisation of Jews in everyday life.
On April 1st, 1933, upon becoming Chancellor, Hitler called for a national boycott of Jewish Businesses. This was just the beginning as this was followed by a law which stated that all Jews and non-Aryans were to be excluded from all aspects of public life.
As the years went on, the anti-Jewish culture intensified and ultimately led to ghettoization before issuing “The Final Solution” and the mass murder of 6 million Jews, alongside homosexuals, gypsies, communists, Catholics and other non-Aryan people.
Himmler is known to be the biggest mass murderer in history and it is considered true that the Holocaust would never have happened without him. He was a leading member of the Nazi party and one of the most powerful men at the time.
Himmler had plans to create and breed a master race with Nordic appearance, the Aryan race. With a degree in agronomy and as a farmer, Himmler believed his knowledge of selective breeding could be applied to humans. He believed that he could engineer the new German populace through eugenics and he was confident he would be able to achieve this within several years after the war was won. He was not able to carry out his plans as he had wished due to Hitler making rash military decisions which ultimately ended the war before Himmler had his chance for ‘racial purity’.
Himmler was the main originator of the Holocaust whilst Hitler headed the political aspects of the regime. It was calculated that the number of Jews to be killed was 11 million and the “final solution to the Jewish question”. Setting up the concentration camps, it was detailed that Jews who were able, should be worked to death, whilst those who could not, should be killed outright.
Heydrich was appointed Protector of Bohemia and Moravia to later serve as the President of Interpol. As Chair of the 1942 Wannsee Conference, he discussed plans for the deportation of Jews in the German-occupied territory and their eventual extermination. This was something that was broadcasted in the movie ‘Conspiracy’ where he was played by Kenneth Branagh.
Having such a large role in the way the Holocaust functioned, he is known as the evil mastermind behind the Holocaust. Historians tend to regard him as the most fearsome member of the Nazi Elite, with Hitler calling him the “man with the iron heart”.
Heydrich’s main role in the Holocaust was taking orders from Hitler and Himmler in all matters concerning deportation, imprisonment and the extermination of the Jews. He is also infamous for being one of the organisers of Kristallnacht, a night in 1938 which saw the spontaneous destruction of Jewish sites, imprisonment and murder of Jews across Germany, considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust.
Mengele started his time working in the concentration camps as an SS physician that determined the fate of arriving prisoners through selection – who would be killed and who would become a forced labourer. However, he is known mainly for his human experiments on inmates, which gave him the name the “Angel of Death”.
Mengele used Auschwitz as an opportunity to continue his research on heredity and commonly used inmates for his experiments, often incredibly painful on his subjects and without any anaesthetic. He had a particular fascination with identical twins and dwarfs.
At the end of the war, Mengele fled to South America where he lived out the rest of his life, despite being hunted as a Nazi war criminal.
Goebbels was appointed the Reich Minister of Propaganda and famously gave public speeches which bred hatred towards Jews and many believe that his speeches and paraphernalia initiated the final solution. He convinced the masses that Jews were a destructive force which had a negative impact on German society.
Goebbels was also the main organizer of the 1936 Berlin Olympics which they used as a vehicle to glamourize Germany and the Nazi regime.
Following the Nazis taking power, he reportedly urged Hitler to take action against the Jews. Interestingly, despite his anti-Semitism, Goebbels was not a supporter of the idea of the master race, speaking of the unnecessity of biological racism for the Nazi ideology. He called Himmler’s racial ideology “in many regards, mad”.
Like many other Nazi members, Goebbels and his family committed suicide once the war had been lost. He and his wife poisoned their 6 children and then killed themselves before they could be found by the Allied forces.